Harvard researchers claimed last month that they had managed to create metallic hydrogen that has the capability to superconduct electricity at room temperature without resistance in a process that used massive amounts of pressure and a diamond vice.
Stored at minus 193 degree celsius, the sample mysteriously disappeared, leaving researchers wonder whether it just evaporated. But they are determined to recreate their experiment and make more of what they termed “the holy grail of high-pressure physics.”
The sample mesaured just 1.5 micrometres thick and 10 micrometres in diameter, one-fifth of the diameter of a strand of human hair. It is possible that once the diamonds broke, the hydrogen dissipated into gas, which means the material is not stable at room pressure.
“Basically, it’s disappeared. It’s either someplace at room pressure, very small, or it just turned back into a gas. We don’t know,” team leader Isaac Silvera was quoted as saying by ‘ScienceAlert’.
“We’re preparing a new experiment to see if we can reproduce the pressures we achieved the first time, and reproduce our metallic hydrogen,” said Silvera, who has spent more than 45 years working on metallic hydrogen, almost a century after it was theorized.
Isaac Silvera and postdoctoral fellow Ranga Dias have long sought the material, the first-ever sample of metallic hydrogen on Earth, something that has never existed before.
In their experiments, Silvera and Dias squeezed a tiny hydrogen sample at 495 gigapascal (GPa), or more than 71.7 million pounds per square inch, which is greater than the pressure at the center of the Earth. In their experiments, Silvera and Dias turned to one of the hardest materials on Earth, diamond but they used synthetic two diamonds in a device known as a diamond anvil cell.
“Diamonds are polished with diamond powder, and that can gouge out carbon from the surface,” Silvera said. “When we looked at the diamond using atomic force microscopy, we found defects, which could cause it to weaken and break.”
Metallic hydrogen, which could act as a superconductor at room temperatures, could change our transportation system, making magnetic levitation of high-speed trains possible, as well as making electric cars more efficient, besides host of other electronic devices. Metallic hydrogen could also be used as a powerful rocket propellant.